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Russian accused of developing malware that infected millions extradited to U.S.

Oct. 29 (UPI) -- A Russian hacker accused of being a member of an transnational cybercriminal gang that has infected millions of computers worldwide made his first appearance in a Ohio courtroom on Thursday after being extradited to the United States from South Korea.

Vladimir Dunaev, 38, is accused of working from November 2015 to at least August of last year as a developer of malicious code known as malware for the Trickbot Group. Prosecutors said Dunaev specifically aided in the malware's execution and developing methods to conceal it from security software.

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Malware, according to prosecutors, is intrusive software designed to be installed on a victim's computer without their knowledge to disrupt computer operations, gather sensitive information or commit other unauthorized actions.

The 47-count indictment details how Dunaev and more than a dozen co-conspirators used the malware named Trickbot to infect millions of computers of unsuspecting victims including individuals but also financial institutions, school districts, utility companies, government entities and private businesses.

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The Trickbot malware harvested online banking login information and other personal information such as credit card numbers and passwords from infected computers that the defendants used to steal the money through U.S. and foreign beneficiary accounts.

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"The defendants designed Trickbot, once it infected a computer system, to determine if the victim computer was connected to other computers on a network and then infected other computers to which the victim computer had access," the charging document said.

After gaining access to their victim's banking information, the defendants would make unauthorized wire transfers or other electronic funds transfers.

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Money mules were then deployed to receive the wire transfers and would move the stolen funds to "reach the control of other members of the conspiracy," the court document said.

The locations of their victims were worldwide, including in Russia, Britain and the United States.

Dunaev has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and multiple counts of wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated theft.

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On Oct. 20, South Korea extradited Dunaev to the United States to face those charges, for which if he is found guilty he could face a maximum penalty of 60 years' imprisonment.

The indictment also names as a defendant Alla Witt, a 55-year-old Latvian native who was arraigned in a Cleveland court in early June.

"This is the second overseas Trickbot defendant arrested in recent months, making clear that with our international partners, the Department of Justice can and will capture cybercriminals around the world," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement.

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